Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Dark mysteries of the cellars
Last night I had a dark and cobwebby bottle of 1976 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva. It was whitish with the work of long-dead spiders, and a thick black layer of something frighteningly giving lived in the punt. After a slight jump back (trying not to disturb the sediment, nonetheless), I opened the bottle over a trash can (wax covering the cork; one of those things that goes everywhere if one's heedless, the way I had been the first time I had a bottle of Clos la Néore), decanted for sediment, poured out said sediment, rinsed the bottle and put the wine back in it, cut off the musty end of the cork and recorked it.
A balmy night out. Up the street: a restaurant that allowed corkage. The preliminaries done, the waiter turned his attention to the bottle of wine standing there in all of its ashen glory. He saw it was already open, picked it up, pulled out the cork, then to pour it, took the bottle in the way waiters everywhere are trained to – thumb straight into the punt. A black hole of decades of cobwebby crap. He gave a start. He tried to smooth out his expression and continue pouring, but I leapt to his aid. I should have warned him, I said, and of course it was OK to pour holding the bottle around the side. This he did.
A bottle of 1973 Tondonia two days earlier had been youthful with that light, leafy fruit I so love, but there had been a hovering uncleanness that marred what was otherwise a lovely wine.
Here, none of that was the case. The 1976 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva was straight-on lovely, darkly lovely. Inexplicably teasing and tangled on the palate, it was opulent yet firm, the kind of wine that makes you want to close your eyes, then open them, then go running around the room. A dream of a wine. A dark, hidden dream that had been coaxed out into the air.